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Space Heroes On The Radio

Tom Corbett On The Radio         Space Patrol On The Radio


Broadcast history

1/1/52 to 7/3/52, on the ABC Network, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 30 minutes, sponsored by Kellogg's.

It is my understanding that one of the deals offered by ABC to get SPACE CADET away from CBS in the fall of 1950 involved a SPACE CADET radio show, to be done by the TV cast, like the similar arrangement ABC had with SPACE PATROL. If so, Kelloggs had to wait a long time. The radio show did not get going until a year after the TV program's move to ABC, and then lasted barely 6 months, ending with the run of the ABC TV program. (After a year's layoff, the TV program moved to DuMont, then to NBC.)

Each week's two programs followed the same story line, although each program was fairly complete in itself, with no cliffhangers. The radio cast was the TV cast, and the writers were often the same, with the legendary Jackson Beck as announcer. Direction was by Drex Hines, with scripts from Richard Jessup, the inescapable team of Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, Don Hughes, Gilbert Brann, and others. Frankie Thomas as Tom Corbett, Al Markim as Astro and Ed Bryce as Captain Strong fought criminals, space pirates, renegade Solar Guard officers, treacherous colonists and various disasters of space, while keeping a wary eye out for ill-tempered Roger Manning, as played by Jan Merlin, who tended to get into serious scrapes or predicaments in every broadcast. Some of the radio scripts seem to be recycled or unused TV scripts, and retain the TV limitations of place and action. For example, in a two-program plot involving an evil relative who kidnapped and impersonated Astro, there were no scenes in which the two Astros interacted, and even their final fistfight occurred "offstage." Other radio adventures opened out to include spectacular settings and action impossible for the TV budget, such as battles against gigantic mining robots on Mercury, or organizing an impromptu army to defeat space pirates in the jungles of Venus.

There seem to be about 40 surviving programs available from dealers in old-time radio. Often, one of the two weekly shows has been lost from the first few weeks of the program, but the archives are reasonably complete thereafter. Recommended!

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Broadcast history

9/18/50 - 3/19/55, ABC Network
9/18/50 - 1/8/51, two 30 minute shows per week, Mondays and Fridays at 5:30 PM, no sponsor.
8/18/51 - 3/27/54, one 30 minute show, Saturdays, sponsored by Ralston.
4/3/54 - 3/19/55, one 30 minute show, Saturdays, sponsored by Nestles.

The director was Larry Robertson, scripts were by Lou Huston, and the announcer was usually the legendary Dick Tufeld, with assists from Richard Beals and Tony Sides (impersonating kids), Jack Narz and Dick Wesson.

Apart from Ed Kemmer and Lyn Osborn as Commander Corry and Cadet Happy, cast regulars were Bela Kovacs, Ken Mayer, Norman Jolley, Virginia Hewitt and Steven Robertson. Appearing occasionally were Nina Bara, Larry Robertson, David DuVal, Larry Dobkin and Jerome Shelton.

The radio program was quite different in style and content from the TV program. In fact, I think Lou Huston was a better SPACE PATROL scripter than Norman Jolley, but to be fair, Huston was liberated by the radio medium in being able to create settings and situations impossible on live TV. Only in the long "Planet X" sequence (which lasted on radio from August to December of 1953!) did the radio and TV adventures run in partial parallel. I assume Huston and Norman Jolley co-plotted these stories to some extent.

The radio series was also liberating for the performers. While Ed Kemmer and Lyn Osborn were trapped in the roles of Corry and Happy, the other cast members played a wide variety of parts, far removed from their TV roles. Virginia Hewitt played a mixed assortment of futuristic females, some villainous. Ken Mayer, using a variety of voices, sometimes played two roles per program. Norman Jolley and Bela Kovacs were often bad guys, while Steven Robertson varied from being a henchman of Kovacs and Jolley to being an innocent bystander caught in the toils of the plot. But even Kovacs got to play essentially comic parts on occasion, as in "The Wistful Wizard of Neptune's Moon" (1/2/54).

There are around 102 30-minute episodes of SPACE PATROL currently available from various dealers in old-time radio programming, and they are well-worth seeking out. Many long auto drives have passed quite pleasantly as I listened to adventure after adventure with good old Buzz and Hap!

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